Monday, August 31, 2009

Just for Fun

I dropped in for afternoon tea at W & R's house yesterday afternoon. On my way, I got a text saying, "pikelets or scones?" That was irresistable! It turned out to be pikelets and just to add to the fun, W & R have a tradition that each person gets to make a personalised pikelet with their own initial. So, here's mine:Please note, W was sitting on the opposite side of the frypan to me.

Well, the only trouble with my afternoon's occupation, was that I didn't want much tea last night, but it was worth it for the good company.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Macro Challenge

I haven't had my SLR camera out much this year. There's a glitch between the software that came with my compact camera and what's needed for the SLR and somehow that issue found itself in the "too hard" basket. But the other day a friend made a fairly casual comment about the flowering street trees and my macro lens. When I went to have a good look at the tree across the road from my house yesterday afternoon, I found that it had nearly finished flowering. So I took up the challenge and spent a happy ten minutes with my macro lens. Here's one of the shots: I found a cumbersome, but effective way around the software issue, so I was able to upload the images. Now I've had a reminder of the pleasure of focussing in on such little details. I'm going to leave the SLR out on my desk to help my motivation to tackle the software problem.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


I've still got several skeins of silk and silk-wool combinations to complete for my folio, but I let myself get a little bit side-tracked and here's the result: It is wool and silk (60%-40%), but it's not homework. It's one of the First Editions colour blends. That's the tops you can see on the right of the pic and the yarn I've made from them on the left. These colour blends are so tempting in the packet and then comes the challenge of spinning them up without ending up with a muddy bland soup of colours, which is what tends to happen if the colours are not separated and emphasised somehow. The more colours in the blend, the easier it is to end up with mud. What I've done is strip the tops down to separate off the different colours as much as I could. I spun them on the fine side and then plied with a strand of blue silk. You can see that the resulting yarn is a lot less vibrant than the original tops, but the colours are there in a subtle way. I really do need a little voice to remind me of the risk of mud every time I see these wonderfully alluring packets in the Craft Supply!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Sky Above

I love these trees. Their bare branches against the sky are such a contrast. And some days I need the reminder to look up. Yesterday was one of those days. I guess the photo is proof that I did remember to look up--and even pulled out my phone to capture the image.

It's turning out the way I predicted with the phone camera: I'm getting to take photos in situations where I never would have had a camera with me. In the midst of enjoying that convenience, though, I do find myself wishing for some of the features of my real cameras.
Aren't I a contrary creature!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Triangle Progress

Week 2 of the "Working with Triangles" Class last night. I wasn't feeling the brightest, and I needed to communicate a little bit of geometry without causing too much anxiety to the students. To my relief, they got it--some from my explanations and some when I had the sense to stop explaining and let them try it out for themselves.

Here's L's pinwheel star block ready for final assembly: I'm so pleased with how these blocks are turning out. It's one thing to design a project for myself, choose fabrics and see how it works. It's quite another thing to generalise from those choices so the students can choose their own colours and fabrics and still get the overall effect. This block depends on the play of light, medium and dark fabrics to form the double effect of the star superimposed on the pinwheel and I'm excited to see it so clearly in a different colourway. The final class is next week and several of the students can't be there, so I jumped ahead a little bit last night to explain the borders that go around this star.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I had tea with my friend Anna last night. I usually think of myself as being reasonably up to date with technology, but this scenario surprised and amused me: . . . wireless internet, laptop on kitchen bench, recipe on laptop . . . follow the instructions and in less than an hour we have yummy almond bickies to enjoy. Meanwhile I continued with my drop spindling.

I was spinning at the Carlton library earlier in the afternoon while waiting for Anna to finish work. I received what I consider to be the ultimate compliment from a tween girl who was watching me, "That's so cool!" Did I happen to mention I love my drop spindle?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


You know what it's like when something catches your attention and suddenly it seems you're seeing that thing everywhere. It's been like that for me lately with the Magic Square. What's magic about it? Well you start off with an odd number of stitches and do a double decrease in every second row . . . and hey presto--it turns into a square.

Now for the geometry. I figure if you can make a square, then you can make a cube. So I had a go at designing a helmet: Two squares for the sides, a square for the top and one for the back and a rib band at the neck. I think it needs a band around the front as well and the wool is rather uninspiring, but it was fun working it out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's Talk about the Weather

This is what the sky looked like a couple of afternoons ago--at least part of the sky. To get the full effect you'd need to take the darkest spot and extend it a fair bit.
This afternoon's forecast is for gale force winds, rain, hail and thunder, but so far we've only had blue sky with a few clouds and a shower or two. I mean to get out in the garden this afternoon and start pulling up some weeds. That is, if the forecast is wrong! Meanwhile I'm doing a bit of cleaning up inside. Failing that, there's always plenty of spinning and weaving to do and I have some merino to wash. My challenge for later this week is to see whether I can spin this fleece finely and evenly enough to use it for a warp.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Warp, Warp Warp!

We started our Shared Project in weaving class yesterday. The room was abuzz. Nine students, nine projects, nine looms, nine different warps . . . oh . . . and five tutors and helpers. Gerlinde had prepared a folder of theory, instructions and samples for each project. The first part of the morning was spent running through these with the whole group. As she described a project she named the student who would be preparing it. So there was a bit of tense anticipation as we waited for our names to be called. And of course we're each going to have a go at weaving each of the projects, so there was a lot of intent listening and note taking.

Some of us had to design elements of the project before we could start. Others just had to decipher the instructions. Then out came the warping boards and cones of fibre and it was all systems go.

Here's one of the warps going on to the loom. J has already wound her warp--several different colours, as you can see--and is now placing groups of threads in the raddle ready for threading. The other set of hands belongs to her helper who is handing her groups of threads from the back of the loom to make her task easier. As for me, I still have my double cloth project on my loom, so I'll have a bit of weaving to do before the next project can go on. I did wind my warp for the new project--I scored the Huck Lace in yellow cottolin. So that will appear in a post as soon as I can get on to it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I took this picture while I was out walking last week. Magnolias in flower at this time of year are spectacular! The combination of dramatic flowers on a leafless tree and those textured buds gets me every time. I hadn't thought of this when I bought it, but now I have a camera with me on my walks as well, since I generally take my phone with me. The challenge is going to be to remember to keep walking, since there are always beautiful and interesting things that catch my eye. Then again I do have the dogs to help me. They love to sniff out interesting details at ground level, but they're not so keen on me stopping to explore at eye level.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cute as a Button

My friend A just came home from a trip to Europe--including a few days in London and a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum. She picked up these little cuties for me in the museum shop.
Her description of the museum and the fabric samples made my mouth water! I'm not planning a trip to London anytime soon, but it sounds like it would be worth it just for the V&A museum.

And how did I get on with my visit to the Guild and finishing my threading?? Well, the truth is, I didn't. I just didn't go. I must remember to put a line through the morning after an evening of teaching. I don't have the mental energy to apply myself to anything much.

Now today, I must do some weaving. I have class tomorrow and I have to finish the double weave project. We're starting on a round robin exercise next. That means that we each set up a project on our loom and then work around the class weaving a sample on each of the looms. By the end of the exercise we each have up to ten samples. At least that's the plan. Getting behind in the middle of that is not an option.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Triangles on the Way

It was the first night of the Triangles class last night, so I'm tired, but happy this morning. Tired because I didn't feel at all like going to sleep when I got home after 10. Happy because I'm pretty glad about how the class went. All the students were in my Patchwork by Machine beginner class earlier in the year, so it felt like a bit of a reunion. One of the students had brought not one, but two completed quilts which she'd made since the beginner class. That's pretty good going.

Triangles can be a bit daunting because there's an issue of accuracy, but the students seemed to be managing ok. Here's an action shot:
We used the "sew and flip" method for our first set of triangles. you can see some results in the foreground of the pic. Next week we'll have to tackle a tiny bit of geometry . . . Oh, well . . . one challenge at a time.

Now I need to drink another cup of coffee and get myself to the Guild. I have to catch up on the Summer and Winter project which I've been neglecting. I still have to finish the threading, so I will need that coffee, even if it makes me a bit late.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Itty Bitty

My friend L is expecting her first grand-baby later this year. She knitted these incredible little booties. I can't believe how tiny and cute they are!

The pattern book also includes gym boots and soccer boots. I don't anticipate any babies in my life in the forseeable future, but I do want to try knitting some of these booties.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


I received this card from my friend S last week. She said the colours reminded her of the wool I was spinning the weekend she visited me. I've included a sample of the wool in my picture. It's a pretty good match. The background is the back of a quilt which my friend V has lent me to use in my Triangle class tomorrow.

The photo on the card is by Richard Woldendorp, Contour farming near Northam, Western Australia wheatbelt, 1990. The photograph is in the National Library of Australia Pictures Collection.

I am fascinated by this photo, and by some of the others I've seen on his website. Originally from the Netherlands, Richard became an Landscape photographer after moving to Western Australia in 1951. He has a special interest in aerial photography. I am imagining the vast contrast between the landscape of the Netherlands and that of Western Australia. My own tendency when photographing nature is to get as close as I can, making the most of small details, so photos on this huge scale are like a shock to my mind's eye. That's a good thing!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rainbows and Colour Wheels

Visit to Rathdowne St continued . . .
M has started knitting a rainbow blanket. Of course I had to check out the colours. Here they are nicely arranged in a colour wheel on the marble cafe table:
Again, I'm checking out the limits of the camera in my new phone. Though it's hardly fair to criticise colour balance on a low light indoor shot when I have no idea how to adjust the settings. Anyway, it was ok. I worked out how to turn the flash on and off at least. As for the wool, it's a merino-border leicester first cross and the colour range is great. I must remember to get a copy of the shade card--lots and lots of lovely bright colours in 4-ply sounds worth investigating.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to Rathdowne St

It's more than a month since I posted a weekend Cafe shot. Could it be a month since I've been in a cafe on the weekend? What's wrong with me!

I caught up with my friend M at Rathdowne St this afternoon. My favourite coffee and flourless pear cake with icecream was on the menu. I think I'll call that dinner. What's more, I had my new phone to play with--my first ever phone with a camera. M and I share a love for random photos of little treasures, so it felt good to catch this pic in her company. It's a detail of the mosaic on one of the shop fronts.

The camera was the main reason for getting a more advanced phone. Up until now I've been more than happy with a "grandma" phone that does the basics like making calls and sending the occasional text. On the other hand my commitment to digital photography has gone from the great luxury of my dSLR a couple of years ago, to the compact digital camera I bought earlier this year because I couldn't carry the SLR with me everywhere. Now of course I'm so used to having the camera in my handbag that I feel deprived if I'm carrying a tiny bag and no camera. Solution? A phone with a 5 mega pixel camera!

Now I'm going to establish my credentials for a "grandma" phone . . . I can remember my first mobile phone as a major purchase--and it was maybe ten times the size of the one I just bought . . . I can remember when a 5 megapixel camera was pretty good going as a camera. . . we won't talk about the little film cameras and polaroid cameras I remember from when I was young! So, I'm going to give myself a little time to find my way around my new phone. But I'm pretty happy with the shots I've taken on it so far. . . and by the way, I have even managed to make a couple of phone calls.

More Rinsing

I'm still getting through all the rinsing from the cotton dyeing I did--ages ago now. The end is in sight, but it sure is taking a while to get there. Today I have two swatches of orange fabric in the laundry tub and this red one in the bathroom basin. The yellow one is drying on the line. Even though the dyes should be well and truly exhausted by now, I don't want to risk mixing colours. That's why I've kept this red one separate from the ones with some yellow in them. I think there's only one more colour run left after this one. It's purple, so I'll need a basin for the red, one for the blue and one for all the rest. If I'd thought about it I could have put the red one in with this one from the orange run, but I didn't think of it until right now as I was typing. Oh well.

As for my spinning, you guessed it . . . I'm still working on silk caps! I have to finish this bobbin and then do one more bobbin before I'm done with that spinning task. I also have to knit a swatch straight from the cap--I'll try to post details of that one.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


OK, I'm making a slow start today, after an unusually late night yesterday. Here's the answer to the puzzle.I don't actually know the name of the utensil with the holes, but yesterday's pic was sunlight from the window reflected from the shiny metal surface. What I actually photographed was the unpainted plaster wall behind the stove. That's the stove you can just glimpse on the right of the pic. The distortion in the pattern was caused by the curve of the metal.

My textile task yesterday was spinning more silk caps. Either I was having a lucky day or my technique is improving, because I managed to get through a fair bit without breaking the yarn or making my hands hurt. I'll see how I go with it today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Guess What . . .

I just snapped this pic this morning in the kitchen: Any guesses as to what it might be?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Silk

One more silk picture: Here are some cocoons which have been stretched on a frame to turn it into a silk hanky. Here's how it works:
  • The cocoon is degummed by boiling it gently in water and soap. That gets rid of all the goo which the silkworm uses to hold it together.
  • That had been done a while ago and the cocoon had been dried again. So it was soaked in warm water all day to get it thoroughly wet.
  • Then C, who was demonstrating just pulled the cocoon apart with her fingers. She hooked a bit of it onto one of the wooden spikes which you can see on the board.
  • Then it was a case of stretching and stretching until the cocoon was entirely stretched over the frame.
  • Several layers of cocoon later and there you have it.
  • The hanky takes a while to dry. Then it's time for more stretching to get it ready to spin.

I always knew silk was remarkably strong, but my hands actually hurt after a couple of hours of spinning yesterday. Pulling those fibres apart so that they can be spun evenly is quite a task. I have a crazy image in my head of a textile gym--spinning wheels instead of exercise bikes, silk to stretch for arm strengthening and large cones of wool for weights . . . only kidding!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Silk, Silk, Silk!

I'm up to my elbows in silk!
Silk caps, silk tops, mulberry silk, tussah silk, silk blends . . . they're all over my big table. I have a skein of wool-silk blend drying in the bathroom--that was my completed task yesterday. Today I'm spinning silk caps. Silk caps are basically stretched out degummed coccoons. I'm spinning a fine yarn, but with the slubs and texture that come from a relatively unprocessed source. I like that.
There was an animated discussion in class on Saturday about keeping silkworms. I thought every Australian child kept silkworms--or at least knew someone who did, but obviously I was wrong. I remember having a shoebox with silkworms as a child. They munched away at mulberry leaves at an incredible rate. When they were big enough they spun their coccoon and waited to turn into moths. The moths were not so exciting to a child's eye. They were dull in colour and all they did as far as I could see was flutter uselessly, lay eggs and die. I must have missed the critical moment of mating. Then there were lots of tiny little eggs waiting to hatch out the following year.
I now know that those coccoons consisted of the marvelous looking shiny white stuff in the pic--mulberry silk. The other is tussah silk--you can see it's duller and rougher looking--but still, it's silk. The silkworms that make tussah silk feed on oak leaves. Silk tops are the cleaned and combed broken ends of coccoons.

OK, end of science lesson! I'm going to have another coffee and get back to my spinning.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No Walk Today

This is the third day in a row of cold drizzly weather. I don't envy these pigeons their roost on my neighbours' TV antena--not even a little bit!I've got the heater on high and have just responded with a "Yes!" to an email from my friend V. The email said, "Coffee?". I have plenty of silk to spin. The requirements for Saturday's workshop include several skeins of fine spinning as well as the wool silk blend I'm currently working on. I'm also planning a tussah silk-camel blend. I will have to venture out later this afternoon to pick up some extra wool for my current crochet project. So it looks like I have a plan for the day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Working with Silk

Here's my Working with Silk Kit: Yep, peppermint scrub, hand cream and nail file! The one prerequisite for working with silk is smooth hands. Rough skin catches on the fine silk fibres and spoils both the spinning and the enjoyment. I'm not usually at all precious about my hands, so these bits of pampering equipment have a permanent home in my spinning box. Most of these items came in my Christmas stocking--including the wool-themed emery board. It's nice having friends who understand.

As it turned out, my hands weren't the roughest in the class on Saturday. We have several members who come down from the country. They exchanged stories about stacking firewood, lost work gloves, boots and redback spiders. I must remember that comes as a package deal along with the paddocks, sheep and beautiful views which they also enjoy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New Girl

We had a new girl in our spinning class yesterday. Her name is Lucy. She is six weeks old. Talk about a picture of pretty pink perfection! At 2.5 kg, she's hardly newborn size.Our tutors found themselves with a new responsibility: taking turns to settle and hold this little one while her Mum had a chance to get some spinning done in between feeds. The library doubled as a nursing mothers room. I got to hold little Lucy while Mum had some lunch. I must say we were all more than a little distracted.

Our topic for the day was silk. We worked with silk caps and tops and had a demonstration of stretching out coccoons to make a silk hanky. I spent the last part of the afternoon blending mulberry silk tops with merino. I now have about 40 g of lustrous luxury to spin up.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy Birthday CCCK

I dropped in to CCCK at the end of the day yesterday to wish them a very happy first birthday. E was busy blowing up balloons ready for the celebration. I have spinning class all day today, so I can't make it for the party, but I had fun in the morning making a little Happy Birthday streamer with scraps of my handspun:
So, happy birthday and congratulations to CCCK. May you live long and prosper and continue to sell lots of wool to enthusiastic crafters.

Friday, August 7, 2009


My friend L dropped in for a meal the other night. L is a knitter from way back, and while I was busy with something else, this bit of knitting caught her eye: I wish I'd had a video camera on hand to catch her expression! She looked at it intently, turned it over and looked again. I could see her desperately trying to work out what on earth I was doing! Here's a close up of part of the knitting that so intrigued her.
It does look strange. The main reason is that I'm knitting with a live single. You can see in the top pic that the wool wants to coil back on itself. It's wool that I've spun with a fair bit of twist on my wheel, but I haven't balanced the twist at all. So it's terribly springy. Knitting with it is a bit like knitting with stretched elastic. The fabric wants to pull in on itself even after the stitches are formed.
Just to add to the puzzle, the yarn is fairly fine and I'm knitting on the bias--increasing at one side of the work and decreasing at the other so that the line of stitches is on an angle. Most of the knitting is in stocking stitch, which would be smooth on one side if it wasn't for the elastic effect, but every now and then I'm throwing in some rows of garter stitch for variety.
If you're a conventional knitter, I'm guessing that by now you're either shaking your head or grinning. It's the kind of thing I love to do every now and then. Something organic . . . out of left field. I don't know myself just how it will turn out, but it's exciting. L settled down after I explained it to her and now that bit of springy knitting is back on the table until I pick it up sometime and see what happens next.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Conversations with Wool

I've started the Engagement Gift blanket and have been adding a few rows each day so that it is starting to take shape.
Choosing and collecting the different colours took me several weeks before I started the actual crochet. I wanted a good variety while representing J & A's favourite colours--thankfully they're complimentary: green and burgundy. The teal contrast was an easy enough fit and I thought I was well on my way. Well I guess I am well on my way, but no matter how carefully I plan, these projects seem to develop a mind of their own. This one is saying, "More light green, please". I hear the message loud and clear. So I thought I would buy some more of the apple green colour. I went back to the shop where I'd bought it, but that colour is all gone. I do have some other options and there are several light greens I could use. I also need an incentive to visit one of my favourite wool shops to see what they're up to. It's CCCK's first birthday this week and it's far too long since I've been there. But at the same time I am a little annoyed with my wool. I'm asking, "Why couldn't you tell me earlier?" but I'm not getting much response, just, "More light green please". "OK, OK, I get the message". By the way, I hope listening to textiles won't be considered a sign of insanity. I'll admit to being somewhat crazy about my craft, but I know plenty of people who tell me their projects talk to them, and no, I'm not hearing voices, so don't worry too much.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Personal Style

I finished the Triangle block yesterday. I've posted a pic on the Quilters at Sussex blog, last night since that's where I'll be teaching the class. The block came together ok and I'm happy enough with it, though I'm always going to be striving for more accuracy. I'll make another sample before the class begins. That will get me warmed up a bit more and also provide a different colourway for the students to look at. I'm conscious that several of the students who are signed up for that class really prefer the pretty floral quilt look and the block I've made is rather dramatic in black red and gold. That got me thinking about why I haven't done more with triangles in my quilting. It's not that I don't like them, but my own designs tend to be more fluid and pictorial.

This little wall hanging was a postcard challenge at Essendon Quilters many years ago. There are several things I'd like to improve technically if I were making it again, but it hangs on the wall in my living room and makes me smile.

I guess the variety of options is part of the fun and the excitement of quilting. If I made a different quilt every week, I can't imagine ever running out of options and possibilities . . . then again, if I made a different quilt every week, I can't imagine getting much else done at all!

Now that the triangle sample block is done, I'd better do some work on my spinning before class on Saturday. And my loom is still on my table where I dropped it when I walked in the door on Saturday afternoon. I don't think running out of options is a problem that I need to worry about much.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Here's the twisted cord twister that I bought on Saturday: It's a basic little bit of engineering. The crocodile clips are to grab onto the yarn. You then hold the larger block of wood steady and turn the smaller block in a circle. The clips spin in the same direction and add twist to your yarn. When there's enough twist the pieces of yarn are tied together and there you have a twisted cord. I expect it will be a lot easier than twisting the yarn in my fingers, but it's still not rocket science. I'm trying to work out a way to connect it to my cordless drill . . . without overwhelming the poor little thing so that it shakes itself to pieces!

Monday, August 3, 2009


I spent yesterday afternoon working on my sample block for the "Working with Triangles" class at the Neighbourhood House. Here's the block so far: It's been a while since I did a lot of machine piecing, so it was a bit of a challenge to get started. And it's triangles to the max! Actually it wasn't too bad, I just had to switch my brain into precision mode. The one thing I know about machine piecing is that near enough generally isn't good enough.

As you can see, it's not quite finished. I still need to do the corner pieces for the flying geese border, but it's nearly there and I'm pleased with the result. I can send out the list of requirements for the students today and put the block on display, maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Getting Started

Here's the beginning of the new blanket: The second row is always the hardest, so I decided to get started last night so I could enjoy watching the project grow. The first row is just chain stitch--300 chain stitches to be precise--and I'm just over half way on the second row. I've divided the wool collection into three bags to help me distribute the colours and textures evenly. I work on a "regularly irregular" plan. That means I choose the wool for the next row while I'm working. It's not a set pattern and it's fun to see how it develops as I go along.

The happy couple are coming to visit in the next school holidays. I've just realised that's only just over a month away, so I'm going to have to focus on this a fair bit if I want to send it home with them. Meanwhile I've set myself the challenge of finishing the triangle sampler today. And I need to take it easy--yesterday was a big day. I think that means breakfast and another coffee should be next on my agenda.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Perfect timing!

Within half an hour of my posting the photo of my completed bushfire blanket the postie arrived with a parcel from Bendigo Woollen Mills. I'd ordered the wool I need to start my next project a week before, and there it was on my doorstep just when I needed it. Here's my collection so far for the Engagement Gift blanket which is my next armchair project: The key colours are apple-green and burgundy with touches of teal. The mega balls you can see are from Bendigo--200g per ball: they're alpaca rich and mirage yarns. How could I resist with names like " apple rich" and "rich wine"! The mirage has a little bit of mohair in it to provide some texture. One of the other yarns I've chosen has some slubby silk in it. I'm not too happy with the colour reproduction in this shot, but I'll sort that out another time.

I've also been working on my double weave project for my weaving class today. It's just about time to pack up the car and head off. I have a "twisted cord twister" on my shopping list from the Guild's craft outlet. That will help me finish off the fringes on the bushfire blanket.